Things That Matter

An Actual Essential Worker With Insurance Was Charged $1,840 For Coronavirus Testing

No doubt, essential workers are heroes and should be treated as such.

As an essential worker, Carmen Quintero (a supervisor at a 3M distribution warehouse which ships N95 masks across the country) is a hero. Despite the current crisis plaguing countries across the globe including the one she lives in, she shows up to work and gets her job done knowing what’s at stake.

And yet, despite her hard work and bravery, she’s being treated like a third-class citizen.

On March 23 Quintero displayed symptoms of Covid-19.

A human resources staff member at her company informed Quintero she would have to go home and get tested.

“They told me I couldn’t come back until I was tested,” explained to People magazine before also sharing that she was also told that she would need to document her results. After contacting her primary care doctor, Quintero was directed to the nearest emergency room for testing. At the time her primary care doctor’s practice did not have coronavirus tests.

At the Corona Regional Medical Center, Quintero received testing from a nurse for her breathing and gave her a chest X-ray. Unfortunately, the hospital also did not have tests and she was directed by the nurse to go to Riverside County’s public health department. At Riverside, a public health worker provided her with an 800 number so that she could schedule a test.

Over two weeks later, on April 7 the county was able to provide her with the test.

“At the hospital, Quintero got a doctor’s note saying she should stay home from work for a week,” People reports. “And she was told to behave as if she had COVID-19, isolating herself from vulnerable household members.”

But by the time April 7 came, Quintero felt better and decided against getting the coronavirus test. Then she received a massive bill.

Quintero has an Anthem Blue Cross health insurance plan through her job which allows her a $3,500 annual deductible. According to People, “Corona Regional Medical Center billed Quintero $1,010, and Corona Regional Emergency Medical Associates billed an additional $830 for physician services. She also paid $50 at Walgreens to fill a prescription for an inhaler.”

For her medical care, Quintero assumed she would get the test but be able to avoid paying

After all, at the time, Congress had already passed the CARES Act which at a glance said coronavirus testing would be free. A closer look at its loopholes shows however that those who needed or wanted a coronavirus test early in the pandemic would be treated differently.

“I just didn’t think it was fair because I went in there to get tested,” Quintero explained.

While some insurance companies have chosen to voluntarily wave or reduce copayments for COVID-related emergency room visits, Quintero says her insurer refused.

“Anthem would not discuss the case until Quintero signed its own privacy waiver; it would not accept a signed standard waiver KHN uses,” People reported. “The hospital would not discuss the bill with a reporter unless Quintero could also be on the phone, something that has yet to be arranged around Quintero’s workday, which begins at 4 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m.”

Despite returning to work, Quintero’s insurance company and the hospital that treated her have refused to wave the charges sent to her. Her “payment reminders” turned to “final notices” and as such “she reluctantly agreed to pay $100 a month toward her balance — $50 to the hospital and $50 to the doctors.”

“None of them wanted to work with me,” Quintero explained. “I just have to give the first payment on each bill so they wouldn’t send me to collections.”

The lesson? Even in these hard times, heroes are not being given breaks. Take caution if your physician urges you to go to the emergency room for a COVID test. After all, any additional care you get there could come with a big price tag.

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Ecuadorian Sisters, 3 And 5, Dropped By Smugglers From 14 Ft High Mexico-US Border Wall

Things That Matter

Ecuadorian Sisters, 3 And 5, Dropped By Smugglers From 14 Ft High Mexico-US Border Wall

New York Post

A recent video shared by a border patrol agent highlighted a shocking moment of smugglers literally dropping two little girls over a 14-foot high fence in the New Mexico desert. Right in the dead of night.

In the disturbing video, the smugglers can be seen climbing the fence and then dropping the two 5-year-old and 3-year-old sisters to the ground.

El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez shared that the incident occurred “miles from the nearest residence.”

The two little girls (Yareli, 3, and Yasmina, 5) were rescued after agents spotted them during a virtual surveillance sweep. The two sisters are from Ecuador and were dumped by human smugglers at the border wall according to an official.

“[US Immigration officials] need to verify the identity of the parents and confirm they are the parents and make sure they are in good condition to receive the girls,” Magdalena Nunez, of the Consulate of Ecuador in Houston, explained to The New York Post on Thursday. “It’s a process … We’re working to make sure it’s an expedited process and the girls spend as minimal time as possible separated from their parents.”

“Hopefully it can happen soon, in a week or two, but  it can take up to six weeks. We are working to make sure sure it happens as quickly as possible,” she explained before noting that the two sisters are “doing very well.”

“We have been in contact with them and confirmed they are in good health,” Nunez shared. “Physically, they are perfect — emotionally, obviously, they went through a hard time, but I guarantee you right now they are in good health and they are conversing. They are very alert, very intelligent.”

In a statement about the incident, the Ecuadorian consulate confirmed that the two girls had been in touch with their parents, who live in New York City.

“The Ecuadorian Consulate in Houston had a dialogue with the minors and found that they are in good health and that they contacted their parents, who currently live in New York City,” explained the consulate.

In a statement from the girls’ parents sent to Telemundo, the girls’ parents had left their daughters behind at their home in Jaboncillo, Ecuador, to travel to the US. The parents of the two girls have been identified as Yolanda Macas Tene and Diego Vacacela Aguilar. According to the New York Post, “The girls’ grandparents have asked President Biden to reunite the children with their parents. Aguilar paid a human smuggler to take his kids to the border — though the grandparents didn’t know how much they paid.”

“[The parents] wanted to be with them, their mother suffered a lot, for that reason they decided to take them,” paternal grandfather Lauro Vacacela explained in an interview with Univision.

It is still uncertain as to whether or not the girls’ parents are in the country legally.

Photos of the girls showed them having snacks with Agent Gloria Chavez.

“When I visited with these little girls, they were so loving and so talkative, some of them were asking the names of all the agents that were there around them, and they even said they were a little hungry,” Chavez told Fox News. “So I helped them peel a banana and open a juice box and just talked to them. You know, children are just so resilient and I’m so grateful that they’re not severely injured or [have] broken limbs or anything like that.”

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As The U.S. Expands Vaccine Eligibility Here’s What You Need To Know

Things That Matter

As The U.S. Expands Vaccine Eligibility Here’s What You Need To Know

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Starting today, everyone 16 and older can get in line for the Coronavirus vaccine. This is a huge milestone that has been months in the making after a very ambitious plan by the Biden administration.

But with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine still on pause, many have been wondering what the vaccine program will look like – especially since nearly everyone is now eligible to receive a shot in the arm.

As of Monday, anyone 16 and over is technically eligible to receive the Coronavirus vaccine.

On Monday, every state in the U.S. expanded its vaccine eligibility to include all adults over the age of 16, meeting President Biden’s deadline which he established two weeks ago.

The country is now administering 3.2 million doses a day on average, and half of all adults have now received at least one dose. Additionally, 84.3 million people have now been fully vaccinated against the disease. These are truly encouraging figures in the fight against the pandemic but a lot of uncertainty remains.

Ok but can I get a shot?

Technically, yes, anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible for the vaccine but your access to it really varies from state to state.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, D.C., were the last to open up eligibility on Monday, after other states expanded access to the general public over the past month.

If the country’s present vaccination rate continues, 70% of the total U.S. population could be vaccinated by June 17 and 90% by July 25, the New York Times has projected. That timeline will likely depend on what happens with Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, however, as distribution is now paused following reports of blood clots, despite being statistically extremely rare.

So, what’s going on with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

On Sunday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said that he believed the pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will likely be lifted on Friday. During interviews on talk shows, Fauci stated that he expected federal health officials to decide on the vaccine’s future by the end of the week and that he did not anticipate the vaccine being permanently banned.

One alternative to banning is to limit who is able to receive the one dose shot, perhaps limiting it to males over the age of 50. This is how Europe adjusted its strategy following similar blood clotting issues with the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which was created using similar methods.

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